This is the last post in my Eco-Living for the Everyday Blog Series, and may be the most important. Because we as consumers can change the way companies operate, just by shifting our focus onto better products and more sustainable options.
Marketing companies are good. They wouldn’t survive if they weren’t, and honestly, it’s okay. Sort of. The consumer just needs to be a little bit smarter with how they shop, especially if they’re shopping green. It’s a marketing company’s job to spin a product to make it desirable for consumers. Low-waste, zero-waste, sustainability, natural, organic, these are all trendy words that grab the reader and consumer’s attention. Hell, I use these words in my blog posts and as hashtags on Instagram frequently (oh, you don’t follow me? You probably should! Click here to see what I’m up to). I used the word danger in my post title because I want to show how green products aren’t necessarily better than others and because it’s an attention grabber. The same as the trendy words. I use them because I want to attract readers who are interested in these topics, much like marketing companies use them to attract those who are interested in those type of products.
I’m always a big party pooper, right? Just when I tell you everything’s okay, I throw in a ‘but’ or a ‘well’ or a ‘however’ and let you know that the world actually is on fire. Anyways…
A lot of ‘green’ products aren’t really green. It’s been a thing that we, as consumers, have been taking for granted for the last while. We’re trusting companies to be honest with us and to be up-front about the ingredients they use in their products and how those products are made. Until recently, it seemed like no one truly cared what was in their cleaning products, the food they ate, or the clothes they wore. I would rarely think about who was making my clothes (I’m guilty of still buying not-so-sustainable clothing options, but I am getting better!) and ignored what was in my make-up and skincare for a good long time. I always knew foods that came pre-packed weren’t good for me, not because they weren’t free-range or organic or would contain palm oil, but because they would be loaded with salt.
Luckily, we’ve started to wake up as a society and second-guess everything around us, but in less of an awkward conspiracy University student type of way. Although, I do love a good conspiracy theory!
Companies never had to worry about anyone questioning their ethics because no one bothered to question them. Then, the Green Movement started and we’ve begun to open our eyes.
The bio-diesel that Europe has been happily filling their vehicles with, thinking that they’re saving the planet at every gas station they stop at? Yeah, it’s made from palm oil…you know, the stuff that’s killing orangutans and burning down basically all of Indonesia? (okay, so I’m exaggerating, but not really…read more about palm oil biodiesel here). Luckily, the EU has educated themselves on the biodiesel that Europe has been guzzling and has put a ban on subsidies. While it’s not a total ban on something that isn’t actually ‘green’, it’s a step in the right direction.
Companies know that simply slapping on the words bio-diesel, and maybe a little green leaf, will put everyone’s minds at ease when they’re filling up. So much so that people never really questioned it. They’ve heard rumours about gas shortages and oil drilling and the horrible things it’s doing to the environment, so fuel that runs on something that we can grow? That has to be great!
It makes sense to think that way.
The thought of getting rid of something that is causing so much pollution and problems in our world and replacing it with something that we can easily grow sounds amazing.
And, it could be amazing, if it could be done sustainably. I’m not a farmer, I’m not a scientist, so I’m not sure what that looks like yet (and it seems no one does just yet), but the word sustainable HAS to be included in anything that is truly eco-friendly.
What does sustainable mean? Simply that the product in question is able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
So, y’all ready to poop your pants? Because here’s another greenwashing company that isn’t as green as they say they are…
Yep. The Holy Grail of environmental companies isn’t the most environmentally friendly. Here’s why:
Seventh Generation uses the word ‘natural’ A LOT. Which really grinds my gears. That word has come to mean ‘clean’ and ‘pure’ and ‘environmentally-safe and friendly’. Except, natural doesn’t really mean any of those things. Oil is natural. Asbestos is natural. Mercury is natural. PLASTIC IS MADE FROM A NATURAL INGREDIENT. Natural does not automatically mean that it’s good for you. It just means that it is naturally occurring on Earth. It means that humans have not made this material, although they may use natural ingredients to form synthetic ones.
Isn’t that neat?! It’s science, guys. Earth is insane. There is so much volatile shit going on here that we just casually ignore. I love it. But, back to Seventh Generation’s bullshit claims.
Do you know who blew the whistle on them?! Proctor and Gamble. Yeah, a company that isn’t that green, either. Why are they even involved in a ‘hippie’ brand? Because Unilever owns Seventh Generation.
Now, Seventh Generation is not a bad company. They have great products if you want to reduce your plastic consumption, buy recycled toilet paper, or buy gentler cleaning products. They also are trying to make the world a better place. But, they’re not the greenest brand out there, and honestly, it’s so much easier to just make your own cleaners at home. A lot of their products contain SLS and are not completely natural.(same with Method) That’s fair. All greener cleaning products don’t HAVE to be completely natural, but if they’ve been touting to be the best in natural products, then maybe they should be.
It’s why you often see ‘plant-derived ingredients’ listed on environmentally-friendly bottles. That doesn’t mean it is better for you than another product, just that *insert percentage* of its ingredients come from plants.
Seventh Generation also uses SLS in their products. Something that people zero in on nearly immediately when switching over to environmentally-friendly products. At least when you’re not familiar with the company. The general consensus from those who are striving for a low-waste, eco-friendly lifestyle is that environmentally-friendly products shouldn’t have any SLS in them. Except, a lot of them do. Because it’s a great way to get that lather in your soaps. It’s why you don’t see many bubbles in a lot of dish soaps or shampoos that have no SLS in them.
Lush uses SLS in a lot of their products, mainly their shampoo bars. I absolutely love their shampoo bars and use them all the time. I know they contain SLS, but they have no packaging and cut down on my plastic waste. And, I know that Lush is trying to make a difference and that they hear complaints about SLS being used in their products, daily. I’m sure they’re experimenting to find a better way to bring that sudsy goodness to their soaps. As I’m sure Seventh Generation will wake up if we dig a little deeper and let them know they need to be better. If we keep calling out greener companies on their not-so-green ingredients, their stance on putting money in to fix the problem should change. You can’t make money if you can’t sell a product.
And, if you can’t sell a product, then you’re not a good business. Speaking of businesses…
Whole Foods, a store ubiquitous with organic and hippie love, hasn’t necessarily stacked up to the environmentally-friendly image they’ve been portraying. Remember when they offered pre-peeled oranges in nice little plastic containers? Yeah, what in the actual fuck. But, they’re a business that’s trying to make money and that’s the bottom line for most businesses. They’ve done a lot lately to up their eco-power game, but for a store that’s supposedly so environmentally-friendly, these changes should have come a long time ago.
And, then, their CEO once stated this gem: ‘what I am opposed to is trying to stop virtually all economic progress because of the fear of climate change’. And, I mean, I can get behind that statement. Like, a little behind it. Because we don’t need to halt economic prosperity to live a greener life, we just need to switch tactics. We need to learn how to care for our planet and prosper. Because, literally without it, we would die.
But, let’s get back to food and talk about organics for a second. Organic produce doesn’t necessarily mean better. It can often be wrapped in plastic and shipped from around the world. The farming practices may not be the best and that product that isn’t labeled organic may be better for the planet than the one with the fancy sticker. And, that sticker is what makes a lot of people choose organic. Because it’s supposed to be better for us. But, is it? A local farmer could be doing some great things, but may not be able to be organically certified due to one tiny issue. Their produce may be BETTER than the organic one because it didn’t have to travel as far and isn’t shrink-wrapped. They might be horrible. It all depends on their farming practices. We all have phones on us at all times, take it out and give the company a quick Google. Then, decide if it’s something you want to purchase.
It’s what I should have done a while back when I was perusing the ‘eco-friendly’ aisle in Marshall’s. It’s in quotes because so much of what I found there contained palm oil and other ingredients I wasn’t looking for. I needed soap and was waiting for a fresh batch of home-made beauties to cure. I picked up bar after bar of soap and found that none of them would do. And then I found some that were wrapped in cardboard instead of plastic and touted that it was made from olive oil, coconut oil, organic herbs and essential oil. I didn’t see an ingredient list anywhere on the package, so I assumed THAT was the ingredient list. And then I opened my heavily cardboarded soap at home to find plastic wrapped around it with the FULL ingredient list on the inside with absolutely no way for me to have read it without ripping the package open. In the ingredient list was palm oil. The exact ingredient I was trying to avoid.
Green-washing can happen to anyone, and if you accidentally buy something that isn’t as green as you thought it was, relax. Living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle is a journey that has A LOT of bumps along the road. The main problems lie in words being thrown onto products just because people will buy them. They have no meaning anymore. Just like my non-gmo SALT, stickers and stamps and fancy wording is being added to near-most everything.
I called out a few greener companies on their not-so-green choices not because I don’t think you shouldn’t use them, but to show that not every company claiming to be green is 100% perfect. They may still be doing their part, even if they’re attached to bigger companies that don’t give a fuck about the environment and only want to make more money. They may still be doing their part by offering quality products into the mainstream market, making it easier for everyday consumers to buy something a little more green. My whole point is read labels. Research the farming practices and look into where you get your food from, actually learning about agricultural practices and why farmers do what they do. Don’t believe everything every blogger says, even everything I’ve said. Research companies and see if they’re truly sustainable. Don’t just buy a product simply because it says organic or natural. READ THOSE LABELS. Start this with a few items in your household, and eventually, it’ll become a habit. Your home doesn’t have to resemble a low-waste lifestyle Instagram feed, making a few changes will do a lot if everyone does them.
Want to do more? My top five favourite charities and businesses that make a difference:
change.org. (no donation needed. sign a petition, start a petition, give a little money, share the petition, it’s up to you!)
One Tree Planted.
Rain Forest Action Network.
More Eco-Friendly for the Everyday
How to Stop Using Paper Towels
Eco-Living for the Everyday: Re-thinking the Convenience of Eating
Eco-Living for the Everyday: The Kitchen
Eco-Living for the Everyday: Cleaning
Eco-Living for the Everyday: The Basics